Libya's gov't forces check rebel advance

Updated: 2011-03-30 19:25


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TRIPOLI- Libya's government forces Tuesday intensified their attacks on rebel fighters, forcing them to flee from a key town in eastern Libya.

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Under a hail of rocket fire, the rebel forces retreated from the town of Bin Jawad, which they had captured from pro-Gadhafi troops just two days earlier.

It was the fourth time Bin Jawad has changed hands in less than three weeks.

Meanwhile, London has been hosting a key summit on the fate of Libya, and world leaders agreed Tuesday to increase the political and military pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.

Over 40 foreign ministers and representatives from key regional organizations attended the conference to discuss the situation in Libya and the next steps to resolve the crisis in Libya.

They agreed that Gadhafi and the Libyan authorities under him have completely lost legitimacy and will be held accountable for their actions.

A statement released by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who chaired the meeting, said that the Libyan people must be free to determine their own future.

Participants recognized the need for all Libyans, including the Interim Transitional National Council, tribal leaders and others, to come together to begin an inclusive political process, consistent with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, through which they can choose their own future.

"We call on the international community to support this process, working closely with the UN Secretary General's Special Representative Abdel-Elah Mohamed Al-Khatib. Regional actors, particularly Libya's fellow African countries and Arab neighbors, have an important role to play," Hague said.

A Libya contact group has been established to provide leadership and overall political direction to the international effort in close coordination with the UN, the African Union (AU) and other regional organizations.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the London conference is taking place at a moment of transition, as NATO takes over as leader of the coalition mission, a mission in which the United States will continue to play an active supporting role.

"Some of our coalition partners announced additional support and contributions today, which we welcomed," she said, adding that no decision has been made on arming Libyan rebels.

In a letter to international powers gathering in London, Gadhafi on Tuesday called for ending what he described as "the unfair and barbaric offensive" against the Libyans.

"Leave Libya for Libyans. You are committing genocide against a peaceful people and destroying a developing nation," he said in a letter carried out by the official news agency Jana.

Gadhafi, in power for 42 years, said the situation in Libya will be handled by the AU, asserting Libya would accept "what a high-profile AU commission would decide."

The world's major powers, Britain, the United States and France, started to launch strikes from the air and sea against Gadhafi's forces on March 19 after the UN Security Council passed a resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

The resolution also called for authorizing "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya, including military operations.


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